wow, three weeks

How do i speak of moments?

saying lake
does not touch

the bliss
of swimming her

and all i’ve got is
“wow, three weeks”
it’s not even close

i guess you had to be there

those three weeks

and for a couple moments
i was

Agile Book Club, anyone?

I’d like to write articles about books that are relevant to our community and the Agile Learning movement in general. I’m not sure of the best place to put such book reviews is, so I’m posting this to the ALF Summer 2014.

I’m wondering aloud whether I’m recording my thoughts for posterity (shareable value); calling for an audience to discuss some of the pressing issues; or hoping that some sort of ‘agile book club’ might emerge.  This last thought is something I’d love to see develop: any takers?

Before I go on, I’d like to explain myself a little bit further, though it’s probably a familiar experience to those of you who love to read as much as I do.

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Snapshots from Aviv Moon

In week three of the summer camp a number of the ALFs were interviewed about Agile Learning Centers with the aim of developing a coherent narrative that could be shared with the world.  Aviv Moon had already produced a (very high quality) short piece on the Mosaic school and this was an opportunity to create something a little lengthier to speak of the shared vision and the growing network of ALCs.

I’m posting this, with some photos, for those who are curious about the video production.   Read more

Dance Like Jagger

During the ALF Summer Camp a group of students organize amongst themselves to devise and choreograph this dance piece.  It was performed a number of times so that the whole community could enjoy it.  These “got the moves like jagger”.

Here’s my handheld iphone video of one of the performances.

Dance like Jagger


The ALFs

I <3

Hearing Tomis sing and play guitar
Watching Nancy get on the floor and play with kids
Listening to Arthur wax poetic about fascinating ideas
Watching Dean interact with kids so thoughtfully and respectfully
Seeing Felicia bring out the wild in the quiet kids and the quiet in the wild ones
Hearing Dan turn everything into an opportunity to learn something about science or the world
Looking at Drew’s intricate doodles
Seeing Abe genuinely get excited about all the kids ideas
Watching Charlotte be a friend to everyone
Seeing Elaine intently confer with kids on their writing projects
Hearing Luc always checking in on how people are feeling
Seeing Ryan demonstrate strength in love
Watching Bear savor every little thing
Seeing Leigh jump into everything to make things happen
Listening to Sarah wholeheartedly share her gifts with everyone

Why I’m in love with the Agile Learning Model

(Abram’s pre-ALF BIO)

It’s the last day of camp and it seems like a time for reflections.  Over the coming weeks, I intend to ‘chew over’ and integrate a lot of the material that we’ve worked on and the experiences we’ve shared.

Right now, I’d like to share with the community the biographical statement that I submitted before coming to the ALF Summer Intensive.  Many would have already seen this in the Google Doc, but I wanted to post it here too, for posterity (within our community).

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A few random highlights from my previously recorded thoughts:

At first I thought the handsignals were really silly, and wondered why the standard head-nods and lack thereof didn’t suffice.  But halfway through the second day, I find that I like the hand signals.  They help me stay focused and not looking around for someone to trade sideways glances with.  They let me express myself without being rude when someone else is talking.  They fill a void in our often discussion-heavy culture that probably needed filling.

The boundaries discussion was weird and frustrating for me.  I want everyone to agree that the boundaries for freedom are that people will be supported in their pursuits as long as they are safe, legal, and respectful.  I think that’s succinct and needed, just as a definition of what kind of space we want to create.  At first I felt so much resistance to this concept of any explicit boundaries that it made me wonder, what exactly are people afraid of, if we say out loud (“with our mouth-space” as a fellow ALFer put it) that these boundaries exist?  I was greatly relieved when those boundaries were explicitly affirmed, because I felt I could put this basic question to bed.

That boundaries discussion issue illustrates another observation I had about myself.  I found the archetypes discussion helpful because as the days go on, I can see more and more how “alerted” I am to missing information.  Missing information drives me INSANE and I didn’t realize it until I had a chance to let this discussion sink in.  I was able to see, day after day, how information-focused I am, and how this causes me to butt heads with people for whom relationships and feelings might be more important.  (A peek into my brain on a bad day: “I don’t really care how you feel, what you are saying is FACTUALLY INCORRECT and until you admit it this conversation is going nowhere!”)  I am better able to see that this strength/weakness of mine, such a driving force, can cause some discord, but when my powers are used for good, people really seem to appreciate that role.

Sara and I both really relished the process of getting the words for the roots exactly right.  We had to pull the concepts out of Arthur and play with the language until everyone felt that it was clear, not jargon-y, and yet embodied the entire concept we wanted to convey.  We were both very much in “flow” as we took part in this process, and the icing on the cake was that when this was read aloud to the entire group, people loved it!  I think some people even had tears in their eyes.  This was a great achievement and a very affirming experience for me.

My kids say that sometimes it seems like a lot of fun things are happening at once and they don’t know which activity to pick, and other times they feel like there isn’t anything fun happening and they get bored.  Regarding the first “problem,” we have discussed as adults that although our first reaction is to try to “fix” it (by setting the schedule differently, trying to communicate whens and wheres better, etc), it isn’t actually a problem at all.  The GOAL of our school should be that there are so many awesome things happening everywhere, you are forced to just pick the thing you find the awesomest at that time.  In that way, our school is more like the Internet, and less like the days when there were only three channels on television and often only one or none had anything good on.  Regarding boredom, part of the ALC culture is that we do not feel that kids being bored is a problem for us as adults to solve.  Being bored gives children an opportunity to figure out for themselves what they are interested in doing.  If a child tells me they are bored, my likely response is “Huh.”  This way their feeling is acknowledged, but the problem remains theirs to solve.  The ability to find something to do when you are bored is an important skill that kids must develop.

A gratitude I have that is renewed on a daily basis is for the people who enjoy and make it their work to play with kids all day long.  While I prefer to spend my time with words and ideas, they do the actual hard work of forging relationships with young people, a task that would overwhelm me.  Without these folks, none of this other work would matter at all; it would all be abstract academic exercise with no bearing on any kind of reality, and no evidence that any of it actually has value.  How happy I am that my kids have these fun, nurturing, sparkly people to help open the world to them.


Reflections on Convening an ALF Training

Facilitating this fast, intensive, and immersive event has brought surprises both in the form of challenges and blessings.

Our interpersonal bonding and connection happened quickly and pretty effortlessly. The “If you really knew me…” exercise helped us move into a space deep authenticity and vulnerability. The people who missed our first morning seemed less able to be vulnerable with the group for the whole first week.

One challenge we faced was avoiding getting pulled into abstract tangents where people want to solve theoretical problems for imaginary children in some Utopian educational setting. We may have lost about 20% of our group work time to these sidetracks, and I intend to be much more diligent about interrupting those discussions more quickly. Luckily, things moved quickly into actual practice with the kids at the camp, and the abstractions have largely been replaced with actual relationships with children.

Agile Roots metaphor seemed to work well (even if initially only partially formulated in words), but we never finished the depiction of a whole Agile Tree for sharing about the model as currently implemented.  My attempt to use “21st Century Education” to convey some of the key things that differentiate us from conventional education models fell flat and sucked us into abstract-land way too quickly.  I will need to find a better framing for that in the future, or wait until we’re better grounded in practice.

Bear’s sharing of the soul archetypes has proven valuable in acknowledging the value and power of different personalities such that  some people have been able express themselves much more freely and feel appreciated for the nature of their contribution. I’m actually seeing the need to put in more information about pacing, defensive styles, order of processing, and maybe even decision-making styles for folks who are struggling with some of their differences in these domains.

One of the biggest challenges I struggle with (as is common) is the gap between what I see possible for us and where we are in fulfilling on it. There are places I want to go, and a speed at which I’d like to get there, that we just can’t do yet. Overall, things are really going perfectly. We need this level of direct experience to translate from theory to action and for everyone to integrate principles into their practice.

I’m really excited about the impact that I can see this is having on the Mosaic community. With 20 adults ALFing and practicing what we’re preaching for the kids, the pattern is getting set much more powerfully for the kids, for Mosaic’s current/future staff and even for the parents who are catching bits and pieces.

One of my personal goals was to see if we could get to operating as a “magical group” much more quickly than I’ve been able to do in the past. I think we’re doing pretty dang well, even though our rockiest meeting so far just happened yesterday. We recovered quickly, adapted our structures, healed the hurting people… basically responded quite agilely.

Now we face the reality of “certification” and what the heck that means and how to know who has crossed the mysterious threshold to being a certifiable ALF.  I’m confident we’ll conquer this challenge with more grace and grit in the coming week.